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Draft notice: Tapping the latest libations

More than beer is being drafted these days at restaurants and bars. Sparkling wine, liquor, cocktails, cider and kombucha are all flowing from taps. The tactic is both a point of differentiation and a margin booster. wine on tap

For wine service, turning a spigot is easier, more cost-effective and greener than uncorking a bottle. Still-wine setups have been proliferating over the past few years, as pioneer restaurants like Father’s Office in San Diego and Two Urban Licks in Atlanta figured out the logistics. Now a tidal wave of wine is being dispensed. The systems are similar to beer, with kegs filled at the winery, except that argon or nitrogen instead of CO2 pushes wine through the lines and preserves the product.

Innovative operators are pushing the draft envelope. To cite just a few:

  • Vermouth is on draft at Amor y Amargo in New York City;
  • Tables at Public House in Chicago sport three taps—two draft beer and the third dispensing spirits, from Absolut and Patron to Jameson and Jack Daniel’s; 
  • Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco premixes classic Negronis—Plymouth Gin, Campari and sweet vermouth—and dispenses them from a faucet;
  • Tertulia, a Spanish gastropub in New York, taps hard cider from an old oak barrel, just like Basque cider houses;
  • Roam Artisan Burgers in San Francisco not only offers craft beer and sustainably produced wine on tap, but locally produced organic kombucha as well. 

Putting on the spritz

“For our opening, we wanted to make a statement, do something no one had done,” says James Horn, GM and beverage director at Graffiato, the Italian-inspired restaurant in Washington, D.C., opened by “Top Chef” finalist Mike Isabella. That something was serving the Italian sparkler Prosecco on tap.

It took a lot of trial and error to get the draft system to pour Prosecco without going flat or rushing out too fast and creating waste. The proprietary system balances the psi of the nitrogen inside the keg to retain the natural effervescence in the wine as well as keeping it fresh for weeks.

The novelty and quality of the draft have proven a sparkling point of differentiation. “Prosecco is our signature; we are the only restaurant in D.C. to serve it on tap,” Horn declares. The frizzante-style wine is sourced from Montelvini in the Veneto region of Italy and sells for $7 a glass. It’s so well known by some customers that they call for the tap without even looking at a menu. Horn adds, “Other guests walk in, look around and ask, ‘Are you celebrating something, everyone’s drinking Champagne?’” Either way, Prosecco accounts for a heavy percentage of sales.

Also on tap is a still wine, currently a red (also $7) from Gotham Project and  two beers: Italian Peroni ($6) and the district’s D.C. Brau’s rotating selection, now a Pale Ale ($7). “We are very supportive of the local economy,” notes Horn

Next up is Banderillero, a Mexican restaurant to open in Georgetown. Prosecco will be on draft and perhaps sangria as well.

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